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Huffman Elementary receives the National Blue Ribbon School award for 2022

Huffman Elementary School was recognized as a Blue Ribbon School on Friday, Sept. 16 by the U.S. Department of Education. The recognition is based on the school's overall academic performance.


Huffman is one out of 277 schools across the country to be recognized by the National Blue Ribbon Schools Program and only one out of two schools in Alaska.


To qualify for its recognition as an “Exemplary High Performing” school, Huffman placed in the top 15 percent in the state in English and mathematics, measured by state assessments.


“The Huffman Elementary community is so strong because of the combination of rigorous academic instruction and community involvement,” said Principal Molly Hickox.


This is Hickox’s second year as principal at Huffman Elementary. She noted her predecessor, Chris Opitz, now the principal at Taku Elementary, laid the groundwork for the award. “There has been a real push over the last many years to really transform our reading instruction, rethinking how we teach reading using researched-based teaching methods.”


The Huffman academic program focuses on explicit and systematic instruction to improve reading outcomes for all students. Teachers have undergone extensive professional development in research-based literacy strategies, and student growth is monitored closely through team data reviews. A master schedule that prioritizes uninterrupted academic blocks and a dedicated intervention block ensures that academic time is protected.


Hickox said Huffman teachers have peeled apart the essential components of reading and how they align to the curriculum and their lesson plans.


ASD Director of Elementary English Language Arts Dianne Orr agreed, saying the Blue Ribbon Award is a direct result of Huffman teachers and staff.


“The teachers at Huffman have been receptive to explicit and systematic instruction based on research related to how our brains learn to read,” said Orr. “It’s been a mind shift, but they’ve changed their whole pedagogy. It takes a lot of commitment to want to learn the “why” and then put it into practice.”


Hickox said their dedicated PTO supports Huffman through extracurricular activities. “They handle all the fun things so that we can focus on the academics.”


The Huffman PTO operates the school’s cross country running club, and multiple school-wide events, field trips, and after-school clubs.


“We are a nonprofit organization composed entirely of parents. Our mission is to support the educational experience as a whole of all of the students,” said Huffman Elementary School PTO president Ann Marie Miller.


From the upcoming fall “Jog-A-Thon” to the spring “Idit-A-Read,” the PTO  incorporates multiple ways to encourage enthusiasm for school. “We want students to love being in their space of education,” said Miller.


Miller said she was excited to hear Huffman is a Blue Ribbon school. “But I wasn’t surprised at all. The deserve it and have worked really hard to get there.”


Congrats Huffman Elementary School!


Lisa Kopec Miller